Magazine of the Socialist Party, Australian section of the CWI

Capitalism: ‘Paradise’ for billionaires, hardship for the rest of us

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The world’s super-rich own vast sums of wealth and squirrel it away in whatever ways they can find. That’s nothing new.

But the revelations contained in the Paradise Papers have reignited working class people’s repulsion at huge wealth inequality and the behaviour of the capitalist elite.

The data shows that the world’s biggest multinational corporations – from Nike to Apple – are involved in what the Guardian calls “aggressive tax avoidance”.

Leading figures in Donald Trump’s administration are involved in these schemes. The Isle of Man and Malta have refunded billions in tax to the owners of private jets and luxury yachts. $600 billion has been shifted offshore by multinational companies in the last year alone.

The most revealing fact is that almost none of these statements alone would be surprising to most people – especially after the Panama Papers, a similar leak in 2016.

But combined, and held in contrast to the hardship, pay stagnation, and public service cuts that the rest of us face – not to mention the crippling poverty in much of the neo-colonial world – they are the latest on a centuries-old list of reasons why we need to get rid of this cruel, corrupt and crisis-ridden capitalist system.

There is some suggestion that a few of these tax avoidance schemes may be operating outside the law. But more importantly, most are entirely legal.

Appleby, the legal firm at the centre of the Paradise Papers, said in its response to the leak: “We are an offshore law firm that advises clients on legitimate and lawful ways to conduct their business.”

What they mean is that they charge huge fees to the super-rich to find every possible loop-hole and convoluted way to get around the pathetic financial legislation that does exist.

The data in the Paradise Papers shouldn’t have to be leaked secretly and then shared between unaccountable news companies. Democratic representatives of trade unions, finance workers, tax inspectors and communities should have oversight.

But the Paradise Papers show that neither introducing laws (which a number of countries did after the Panama Papers) nor knowing what’s going on, is going to stop the capitalist class behaving as they do.

We want to put a stop to this giant rip-off! And there’s one major obstacle – we can’t control what we don’t own.

80% of offshore wealth belongs to the richest 0.1% of the population. They made their money off the hard work and exploitation of working class people.

But it’s also working class people who have the potential power to put a stop to all of this and to take back that wealth.

We call for the nationalisation of the banks and finance companies under democratic workers’ control and management to give us a proper view of what wealth exists and the funds to invest in jobs and services.

This would also allow the bank accounts of the rich to be frozen and transactions controlled to prevent them trying send their money abroad (to tax havens or elsewhere) in protest against such progressive measures.

But to really end the corrupt dealings of the capitalist class, a socialist government would have to go further.

The democratic nationalisation of the top 150 companies that dominate the economy would give the basis to begin planning production and the use of resources properly and without interference from the 0.1%. Compensation should be paid only on the basis of proven need.

The Paradise Papers have again proven that cuts and austerity are completely unnecessary. It’s time to boldly fight for a socialist alternative to capitalism which can only ever mean a paradise for the capitalist elite and misery for the rest of us.

By Socialist Party reporters

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